Lady Gaga hits stage at Montreal Jazz fest
By Sergio Martinez
Montreal Jazz fest: The city had only one language
“I had the time of my life tonight” wrote Lady Gaga on Facebook after making a surprise appearance at the concert offered by veteran crooner Tony Bennett, just one of those memorable moments of the 35th edition of the Montreal International Jazz Festival which came to an end this past Sunday with the outdoor closing concert featuring Deltron 3030, a hip hop trio that had the audience dancing the whole time.
During the press conference held this past Monday Alain Simard, founding president of the Jazz Festival, André Ménard, vice-president and co-founder, and Laurent Saulnier, programming and production vice-president underlined the success of this new edition of the event, which is now regarded as Montreal’s greatest cultural event: “Quite simply” the proud organizers of the jazz fest indicated “it would be impossible at this point to imagine Montreal without its jazz festival!”
However that doesn’t mean that this major city event is not without some problems—minor at this point—but if prolonged, they may affect one of its most important components: the outdoor, free concerts which are attended by thousands every year (in fact, according to figures released by the organizers, in its 35 years of existence the Festival has had an estimated grand total of 45,600,000 visitors). Simard was pointing to the fact that sale of food and other products at various kiosks on site, was down this time. Since the profits of these sales contribute to fund the free concerts, there is a potential problem that he didn’t say how to solve, maintaining that in any case there is no immediate danger for the event since the organization is financially healthy. But he also mentioned it as a point that they will have to contend with. On this, one may repeat that cliché that the fest, and particularly the renovated Quartier des spectacles (Performing Arts Quarter) the area where the free concerts are held, are victims of their own success: the artistic events held there have also been a great boost to dépanneurs, restaurants and other stores in the neighbourhood which compete with the kiosks on site selling beer or food.
One just has to hope that once more the organizers would use their inventive and entrepreneurial capacity to get around this problem since delivering artistic quality also cost money, and on the other hand, there is no question on their part that the outdoor concerts must remain free.
Back to the artistic dimension of the event, in terms of the last few concerts I had the occasion to attend, I must underline the excellent performance by “Escalandrum” the Argentinean group led by Daniel Piazzolla—grandson of the great tango innovator Astor—who managed to delight the audience at the Jean Duceppe Theatre with the jazz versions of many of Astor Piazzolla’s great works, the renditions of “Lunfardo,” “Primavera Porteña” (“Buenos Aires Spring”) and “Tanguedia” were especially notable. Then I had the chance to attend the last of Italy’s Gianmaria Testa concerts at the Salle du Gésu and be surprised by the charming atmosphere this vocalist and guitarist is able to create. Testa sang mostly his own creations which are an eclectic display of love song and others with a distinctive social content, but he also made a very good version of one of the themes that make the repertoire of Spanish singer Paco Ibañez. With a seductive voice and a distinct guitar style, Testa was one of those less known but great stars of this festival.
And for those who can’t wait, the 36th edition of the Montreal International Jazz Festival will take place between June 26 and July 5, 2015.